“Was it that bad?” I whispered to my husband, as we fled to the car. Everyone in the fast-food restaurant was glaring at us, and I felt utterly humiliated.
“Well,” he mused, “you did just change Emmy’s nappy on a table that people eat from. A lot of people would think that’s pretty gross.”
I swear, I used to be so much cleaner. But now? I’m the sort of person who gets security called on them at a fast-food restaurant.
Since becoming a mother, I’d become something else, too: disgusting. And I hadn’t even realised it.
My hygiene standards had slipped so slowly. A showerless day here and an unflushed toilet there (I didn’t want to wake the baby, after all) had all led to this shameful moment of public grubbiness.
Honestly, I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong. But once all of the staff turned up to berate me, plus a security guard, I realised how out-of-touch I’d become with social norms. And it was all because I was so focussed on my kid.
Here’s what happened. During an hour-long car trip home from our friends’ place, Emmy had smushed up several home-made muesli bars and then tipped the crumbs over her head.
She completely freaked out, because the muesli was all down her top and in her nappy, and she was uncomfortable. My husband, Jeff, couldn’t concentrate on driving because Emmy was screaming so much.
We pulled over at the first chance we got – at a petrol station with a little fast-food restaurant attached to it, nestled right on a busy highway.
I grabbed my crying kid and bolted into the fast-food place, and did a five-second scan for a toilet or parents’ room. I couldn’t see one, so I made a dash for the outdoor tables. They were right next to the highway, and no-one was eating there. It was the perfect place to discreetly change Emmy.
Listen to Carla explain what happened here:
I worked as quickly as possible, stripping her down and pausing only to pick out several chunks of muesli from her bellybutton. “In my button,” Emmy observed. I also changed her nappy, which was mostly dry, but also filled with cereal.
“Excuse me,” called a young male voice from behind me.
I turned around to see one of the staff members from the fast-food place, leaning out the door.
“There’s a parents’ room inside,” he told me. “It’s got a change table. A full change table. It’s got a toilet. It’s got everything. I don’t want to be rude or anything…”
Here’s a life tip: when someone says they “don’t want to be rude”, it means that they are trying extra-hard to be polite, because they actually think you are a shithead.